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Urban center as a tool

“Architecture is the most public of the arts,and it should be, by rights, the most approachable form of our culture. And yet, very few of us are actually taught how to appreciate Architecture and understand the importance of the built environment, so most people don’t see the connection between the built envirenment and everyday life”. Lynn Osmond – Chicago Architecture Foundation

1. What we talk about when we talk about “Urban Center”? With the name “Urban Center” or “Open house” are usually denoted different realities. It is possible to define Urban Centers those phisical or virtual places used as communication of politics related to the development of the area and the urban fabric. Even if they are so different, they all share a focus on an architectural and urban-planning local experience.

2. Distinguishing criteria among Urban Centers Structures that play on italian and international territory have to be assessed under those profiles: 1.structural 2.methodological 3.teleological 1. In Europe they are usually supported by public fundings or publicprivate fundings, that means they answer top down logics. Instead, in Anglo-Saxon countries they are supported by fundings of private societies, corporations or by single citizens. That means they answer bottom up logics. 2.As far as operative methods are concerned, “urban centers” use the most modern technologies as audiovisual equipments, websites, blogs, newsletters, focus groups... 3. As far as aims are concerned, urban centers offer an easier knowledge of urban-planning politics. They organize permanent and temporary exhibitions; they act as record office of local planning; they manage technic cartography; they are promoters of researches on the territory.


There’s also a difference between those centers which only propose an explaining of urban-planning politics (e-government), and those which both explain politics and make people involved in decisions about politics (e-government and e-democracy).

3. Some “urban center” experiences Anglo-Saxon Urban Center represent “Centers of public education that serve as forums for dialogue about the built environment” • •

S.P.U.R. CENTER OF SAN FRANCISCO (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association), since 1958 promoves susitainable politics for the city. P.I.C.C.E.D. CENTER OF NY (Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development), supported by public fundings and by some important private foundations as Rockefeller and Ford. www.picced.org

European Urban Centers instead follow the guide of a French center. • PAVILLON DE L’ARSENAL DE PARIS, founded in 1988 by the future president Chirac. The aim of this center was mostly that of commmunicate urban politics, that’s why it deals with permanet and temporary exhibitions even nowadays. It has an importan relation with architecture because it has been designed to offer those issues. www.pavillon-arsenal.com • CUBE OF MANCHESTER is a center for architecture and design which promoves a debate on construction of public buildings in UK. It also organizes events, debates, educational projects and publications. www.cube.org.uk • ARCAM ARCHITECTUURCENTRUM AMSTERDAM, created in 1986 with the aim to solve architectural problems and development problems of the city. It offers an Information Point about the transformation of the city; it holds a permanent exhibition about the growth of the city since the 19th century and some temporary exhibitions about urban and architectural development. www.arcam.nl • AZW ARCITEKTURZENTRUM WIEN is a big exhibition center about urban politics. www.azw.at The Italian experience is built on the basis of the French Pavillon De l’Arsenal.


Here the list of Italian Urban Centers: • CASA DELLA CITTA’ DI NAPOLI www.comune.napoli.it/urbana/html/casacittà/intro • URBAN CENTER METROPOLITANO DI TORINO www.urbancenter.to.it • URBAN CENTER DI BOLOGNA www.comune.bologna.it/urbancenter • URBAN CENTER DI MILANO www.comune.milano.it/urban_center/index.html • URBAN CENTER ROMA XI www.urbancenter-roma11.it • CENTRO CANDIANI 5 DI VENEZIA www.comune.venezia.it/candiani5 • URBAN CENTER DI VERONA (failed)

Conclusions It is not possible to define with few words the Italian Urban Centers, because they have different aims and characters in relation with the territory they deals with. Anyway, it is possible to say that the principal aim is that of communicate urban-planning choises to citizens. Another important one is that of attracting people in order to get them inolved into urbanplanning politics, as an active way of planning the future of a territory.

Traduzione a cura di G.B.


Urban Centers